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Archive for February, 2014

As a seller of handmade products, one of the requests I often get is to ‘customise’ a product. I am not referring to making a completely new custom product (which is another common request but one that I enjoy doing)… though I am not able to take as many of such orders due to time constrains. Instead, what I refer to is when customers ask to add on/ change something (for e.g. changing the material used from leather to felt) of a product we already have to offer. As simple as this request sounds, it is equally time-consuming, and in some case more so.

the reason? Since every part of the product can be customised, the customers become spoilt for choice and sometimes it takes many ping-ponging of emails to finalise on what they want. It is tedious on both ends for the customer as well as the maker.

 

A crafter friend once commented/ grumbled about this phenomenon of ‘individualisation’ of everything: “Aiyah! Those I made to put in the shop so nice already but my customer still wants to custom-custom everything.”

That just verbalises my sentiments exactly.

 

And so when reading a column in the papers today by Fiona Chan about bespoke cocktail drinks,  it made me break into a knowing smile.

“For those wondering what tailor-made suits have to do with alcohol, it should be explained that bespoke isn’t just for menswear anymore. These days, you can custom-make anything to your specification: cars painted to match your nail varnish, coffee tables built to the exact height of your sofa cushions, vacations in the desert with your own private chefs and temperature-controlled tents… nothing makes people feel more special than believing they are buying something that is not only one-of-a-kind, but made explicitly for them.”

ah so that’s explains all the recent custom requests.

“but there comes a point where individualisation becomes its own unique form of stress… It was clear that nothing I could come up with myself would be better than what the experts mixologists who actually did this for a living had already thought of.”

And this is also how a handmade artist feels… after spending all that time mixing and matching and prototyping designs of products, only to have people come request for a change in this and that. well… it  feels (for a lack of a better word) tiring. And why would you want to put names on passport covers anyway, when the names are already imprinted in the official identity document it holds?

(article quotes taken from The Sunday Times, Feb 23 2014, ‘Bespoke drink? Space me the Stress’ by Fiona Chan)

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Snow in Tokyo

while talking to 2 friends yesterday, it seemed like the topic of “Japan” kept creeping into the conversation… I suddenly found myself missing Japan. and then there were the photos by Hello Sandwich of Tokyo covered in snow. oh the fun the Tokyolites have when they have snow to play with.

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(Photos copyrighted to Hello Sandwich)

 

when life gives you the heaviest-snowfall-in-45-years, make the most fun out of it! 😀 I love that attitude.

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the Now.

I was just snooping around the web and came across this conversation with illustrator Camilla Engman by The Little Drom Store.

when asked: “Please share with us an all time favorite Camilla Engman creation, and tell us what makes it your favorite?”

she replied: “The last one is almost always my favorite. Because it is now, where I am now and hopefully it tells me something about the future, or gives me a dream about it.”

 

because it is now.

 

The response made me smile. Because it is probably something I would have said too. Because I have just completed reading ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki which had the lead character always chasing to capture the now. It is easy to answer which is the most important moment – the now or the present moment is the most important time – yet it is difficult to put into practice. how often do you find yourself constantly worrying about the future or being bothered by the past to truly be able to enjoy the present. 

(and… I just lost my train of thoughts on the philosophical point I was about to make. oh well. That is no longer the now! )

 

“This present moment is all there is, only most of us are too preoccupied with the past and the future to notice it. Zen Buddhist practice teaches you to be aware and awake in the present moment-to wake up to your life at the very moment you are living it. This is the supapawa!”- Ruth Ozeki  

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Did I mention before that I have tried my hand at ceramics before?

It is one of those few topics that comes up every now and then, in the most unexpected of times. When i was speaking with an interviewer last week, we talked about crafts I have been attracted too. Since primary school, I said, I took up a ceramics class in the CC and this led to me using it as the medium for my O’levels artwork. She too used ceramics in her O’levels art work when she graduated from the same school! oh what a coincidence and it felt we got a little closer because of this unexpected ‘shared’ past.

Every time I bring out my knitted plants to show, customers and friends would ask, “did you make those pots yourself?” Sure, the focus of the product are our knitted plants but the little imperfect pots do steal a bit of the limelight for a while. again, I retell the story of my past experience with ceramics.

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A few days ago, I visited an artist friend’s ceramics studio at Goodman Art Centre, it was dusty (this is a clay studio afterall), a little dark, quiet but really quite cosy. A few ladies looked up briefly and smiled as I walked in and then turned back to their ceramic works. There is something relaxing about being in a ceramics studio. It is an art that cannot be rushed. It is a space usually free of music (not even light instrumental background ones). People are never in fancy wear, you expect to get messy so there is no need to dress to impress. I like that. I like the atmosphere of just being there to work silently in your own style. it is a meditative space.

As I read a blog post by the ladies of Hey Kumo, I am reminded of the slow process of making ceramics pots. I remember the rolling out of the clay in one flat piece, slapping it on a manual potter’s wheel, finding the centre, measuring out the diameter for my pot’s base, and then spinning the wheel and using my needle tool to aim and cut. Then comes the building up, I work in coils, scoring and wetting the areas for adhering before patting down the coils and smoothing it with the wooden tool… it is a long methodological process but like the blog post said, it slows you down. it calms and quietens the mind. and that isn’t such a bad thing in today’s fast-paced urban condition.

 

When working with ceramics, one of the stages that makes me cross-my fingers is when you cut your work off the wheel. I get nervous every time it comes to that stage. because I have spent so much time on the piece, this is the final make-or-break step. you don’t want to cut it off too high and end up with a hole in the base. Then, it wouldn’t function as a pot anymore, will it?

For that reason, I understand what it means to look at the base of a handmade pot. It is one of the least looked at areas of a pot, but it reveals a whole wealth of information about the origins and character of the pot. (Usually, it is also at the bottom where the artist marks his/her initials)

I enjoyed this read by Studio Kotokoto on the underside of handmade ceramics

“What does the bottom look like? What type of clay has been used? Is there a foot, and if so, what type is it? Does the maker sign the pot? Is it trimmed on the bottom?… To us it is just as important as the other more visible parts of the ware because it will offer you another perspective into the origins and characters of these items as shaped by their makers.”

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image credits to Studio Kotokoto

(image credits to Studio KotoKoto)

Ceramics. it is just one of those art forms that you will never quite forget after you experienced it once.

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